ENVIRONMENT AND STRUCTURE
Esperanza offers children the opportunity to build, create and explore with learning materials in our home-like classrooms and expansive outdoor environments. This is possible as a result of a consistent daily schedule and well thought out, thematic lesson plans. We express clear expectations, provide guidance and encouragement as needed.
A CHILD’S SOCIETY
While academics are the basis for most activities, we consider it our responsibility to provide children with a strong foundation and opportunity for socialization among peers and adults. Our daily circle times encourage group and individual participation embedding a child’s role in this setting.
FOLLOWING THEIR LEAD
We trust children to have a perfect response to any given stimulation understanding that their response is based upon their perception and their “filters”. It is our goal to understand those perceptions and to change the stimulus rather than attempting to change the child.
LEARNING TO LEARN
We study the process of learning to learn. We believe “mistakes” are products of high-level thinking and an instrument for learning.
TO EMPOWER OR CONTROL
There is a question we ask ourselves when encountering a difficulty situation with any child: “Is this really about the toy (or snack, or game) or about a need for power?” We know that at first glance it can be hard to tell. It does take a certain amount of experience to understand what a child is really saying through his non-verbal and verbal behavior.
It is our belief that as educators of young children, we must make the effort to read between the lines and respond in an appropriate and empowering manner! We believe children should be empowered at the earliest age possible to make choices for themselves, beginning as early as finger foods. We encourage parents to send to school food their children may self-feed so they are able to make distinctions and choices rather than having food shoveled indiscriminately into their mouths.
We encourage our children to dress themselves and marvel at their pride in their inside-out shirts and backwards shoes and acknowledge their glowing by saying, “I see you got dressed all by yourself today.” We trust our children to “use their words” as well as to choose their friends.
We welcome and encourage fantasy play as a creative teaching tool and do not overlook the opportunity when presented. Our classes are named for playful animals with which the children may identify at an early age and use as a bonding instrument with their peers
. In overcoming fear we use fantasy to create safe, friendly characters to accompany a hesitant child. Concepts of good and evil may be explored in a safe and fantastical expression of pirate play on a fort with friends. Stereotypical gender designated identities may be explored without right or wrong labels. Role playing is an important developmental stage critical for the child in learning who they are in the world and in their relationships as well as a tool for exploring other perspectives and expressing genuine empathetic behavior.
If a child can pretend it, he can learn it !
FIVE JOBS RATHER THAN RULES
Rather than rules, the children of Esperanza have certain responsibilities. They are called the Five Jobs and they are:
# 1. To have friendly touches
# 2. To have listening ears
# 3. To take care of myself as best as I can
# 4. To learn
# 5. To have fun
A child not “doing their job” may be asked the simple question, “Did you forget what your job is?” empowering them to re-choose their behavior.
SENSE OF FAIRNESS
Another facet of our school is assurance of fairness. It takes modeling, an understanding of conflict, courage to make unpopular decisions and an action plan. We are trained to recognize a struggle for a tricycle is never about the toy, it is about power and a child’s struggle to determine what is fair or not fair in life. We understand it is our responsibility to grasp the teachable moment pointing out “we have 2 children and 1 tricycle”. We allow the children the opportunity to see the thought process of thinking, having an idea and presenting the solution (“Hmmm? I know!) And then we choose a child being careful not to label one as “first” and the other as “second” (or worse, “last”!) but only as the one to ride “now” and the one to ride “next”. We acknowledge the disappointment of the non-riding child and let them know that when they are ready, and only when THEY are ready, we can do something wonderful until it is their turn. Finally, we are able to teach trust and fairness by ensuring that they are in fact “next” giving the child a deep impression that an adult really does care about them.
A plan of action for each age group is a must! Without a road map, we would not travel very far. All age groups have developmental goals, a strategically designed curriculum, monthly calendars and newsletters from your teacher, a calendar of events for the school year, a monthly newsletter from the Director, informative articles and monthly trainings for teachers. Daily schedules provide the children with repetition and continuity so they may have confidence in their routine and knowing what comes next. Our scheduled Circle Times each day are avenues for the teacher’s plans to be implemented in a teacher-directed manner. This also gives the children the experience required later in elementary school for listening and group activities. Our Learning Centers are scheduled throughout the day. These centers include follow-up materials for the theme and academic goals for the day. The centers are designed so children may manipulate the materials on their own in a child-directed manner.
SHARING AND COMMUNITCATION
We do not teach or require children to share, rather we teach and encourage taking turns and using turn-taking language when they are able. Each classroom is enriched with numerous “centers” for learning and younger children are allowed to fully explore their center without the interference of other children. As the children get older they are taught to ask, “May I join you?” or, “When you are finished, may I have a turn?” This encourages respect for peers as well as self-management and language skills.
BUILDING SELF ESTEEM FOR THE FUTURE
We encourage a child’s introspection to find true pride in their work rather than blind praise from an adult. The ability of a child to look inside and decide if it was their best effort or if a work of art is truly beautiful is ultimately more important than always needing acknowledgement and affirmation from an outside source.
The Child is Not Their Behavior
We understand and are able to distinguish between the behavior of a child and the child themselves. When a child’s behavior is addressed leaving the child’s self-esteem intact, they are able to rethink their own actions independently.
We believe children should be empowered at the earliest age possible to make choices for themselves, beginning as early as finger foods. We encourage parents to send to school food their children may self-feed so they are able to make distinctions and choices rather than having food spooned indiscriminately into their mouths. We encourage our children to dress themselves and marvel at their pride in their inside-out shirts and backwards shoes and acknowledge their glowing by saying, “I see you got dressed all by yourself today.” We trust our children to “use their words” as well as to choose their friends.